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Syme Header Powers Woodbridge Strikers To L1 Cup Finals Victory

08/04/2018, 11:30pm EDT
By Jonathan Cheng

Third time's the charm for the Woodbridge Strikers.

After losing in the final in the previous two years, they finally lifted the L1 Cup after a 1-0 victory over Unionville-Milliken S.C. at the Ontario Soccer Centre on Saturday.

April Syme (30') thumped a power header into the net from a Vladanka Gurovski corner, scoring the lone goal in the women's L1 Cup Final. It was the first goal conceded by Unionville-Milliken in the competition after three clean sheets in the Cup.

Woodbridge started a core group of players that played together for years. Syme, Diamond Simpson, and captain Alyscha Mottershead all played in the 2016 final that ended in a penalty shootout loss to Vaughan. Head coach David Porco credits the veteran leadership in their current undefeated season in the league and cup.

"That's why we're undefeated this year," Porco said.

"They're all experienced girls who know how to play so it makes a huge difference because you can surround them with the young ones."

Woodbridge controlled possession for most of the game. Slick build-up play freed Jenny Wolever to take a few shots that challenged new Unionville-Milliken goalkeeper Levanta Staggolis, forcing her to make highlight saves throughout the match.

Staggolis was the hero in the Semi-Final penalty shootout to help Unionville-Milliken earn their berth in the L1 Cup final, replacing All-Star goalkeeper Marissa Zucchetto who left the team to join Texas Tech University.

"We've lost about nine players to Division-I schools in the U.S., so this is like a make shift team," coach Alex Morales said.

"I couldn't be prouder of them. They fought so hard, they gave everything they have."

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

(Photo: Martin Bazyl Photography)

Staggolis stepped up to the challenge, making nine saves to keep Unionville-Milliken close for the full 90 minutes. Syme's goal was the first goal Unionville conceded in the tournament, and new players will now have to step up like their shot stopper.

"We have to prioritize defence because we lost key players, but everybody's stepped in," Morales said. "The next player up comes in and shows me what they can do."

Unionville-Milliken pushed for an equalizer after the half-hour mark. A corner landed at the feet of Chelsea Cheung. One of her shots was blocked, and her next one was off-target.

At the end of added time, Woodbridge goalkeeper Vanessa Fiore came off her line to shut down the final chance to earn the clean sheet to win the trophy.

After years of heartbreaking defeats in two straight finals, Woodbridge finally have a weight lifted off their shoulders.

"I'm reminded of that," Porco said. "We had to come this time to take it all, and the girls fought hard."

"Congrats to Unionville. They're a good young team. They worked hard, and they gave us a battle. In the end, I think the deserving team won."

L1 Cup champions Woodbridge Strikers will look to continue their undefeated streak  in the league on August 10 (9:00 p.m.) when they visit Toronto Azzurri Blizzard in the Azzurri Village.

L1 Cup runners-up Unionville-Milliken will now focus on taking one of the final playoff spots when they take on Durham United FA at Bill Crothers Turf Centre, Unionville kicking off on August 10 (8:00 p.m.).

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